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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Etch-a-sketch journalism

Political coverage has a tendency to pay far more attention to the occasional moments of truth compared to the constant lies.

That's why Eric Fehrnstrom's memorable misstep in comparing the upcoming switch from primary to general election campaigning to an Etch-a-Sketch is still reverberating around the airwaves and in print. And why the overstatements and lies -- about things like gasoline prices -- go on and on, snuffed out in the competition for our short attention spans.

The New York Times makes one of those rare efforts at truth-finding today, taking a look at the state of the nation's energy supplies and production efforts. It follows a separate look yesterday by Globe columnist Juliette Kayyem at the beehive of activity at the northernmost trip of Americas.

But what we bound to see and hear on the airwaves in the coming weeks are an incessant look at the upward creep of gasoline prices and the bleating of Republican candidates attacking Barack Obama for stifling domestic oil production that would lead to $2.50 a gallon gas.

The Times story could not be more direct:
In 2011, the country imported just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005.
And Kayyem paints a picture of an Alaskan community bracing for a potential black gold rush for which it seems ill-prepared:
The United States Geological Service estimates there are about 25 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic; it could net a federal tax haul of $200 billion. Isolated Barrow, a place that has no road access in or out, will serve as the primary land location for all exploration activity. It is ground zero at the top of the world.
Yet it seems likely that the electronic media that spews out "news," particularly cable television and talk radio, will little note or longer remember this fact. After the current Fehrnstrom fascination fades, we'll be back to the rote repeating of Romney, Gingrich and Santorum lies and misstatements about energy.

If only those words could moulder and rot in the ground to provide fuel to future generations instead of simply polluting today's political environment.

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